On August 23 of the past year, the cornerstone of the soon to be constructed building that would be the new Masonic Hall for the Grand Lodge - and that of several of the subordinate Lodges in close proximity - was laid in due Masonic form. The Grand Lodge and a large number from the subordinate Lodges, the Royal Arch Chapters, and the Knights Templar Encampment were involved in the procession and ceremony. The Mayor and Aldermen of the city also seemed fit to be present for this occasion – an occasion for which the Freemasons in the Jurisdiction had labored long and hard.
Following the laying of the cornerstone, work on the new edifice began in earnest. Further financing was arranged, building materials were purchased, and builders were put to work. By nightfall on April 27 of this year, the completion of the new Masonic Hall was in sight. This was the first time that the Grand Jurisdiction would be able to enjoy their own building without having to rent a space for their activities.
On that night of April 27, the Craft’s hopes were dashed into ashes. A disastrous fire broke out nearby and, by the next day, nearly one-third of the city was destroyed. The almost completed Masonic Hall was one of the many buildings to succumb to the flames. Several of the subordinate Lodge Halls in the city were also destroyed. The most severe blow, however, came in the form of the destruction of Seyle’s Hall – the location being rented by the Grand Lodge until the new Masonic Hall was completed. Along with Seyle’s Hall, most of the Masonic furniture and all of the records of the Grand Lodge were destroyed – save the minutes from the last two years. The owner of the hall - a member of the Fraternity - did manage to save a chest which contained the Grand Lodge officers’ jewels, collars, and a small selection of the Grand Lodge’s furniture.
At a Special Communication of the Grand Lodge on May 7 of this year, the Fraternity expressed determination and resolved to carry on and renew its quest for a Grand Lodge Hall of its own.
The year is 1838 and the location is Charleston, South Carolina.
Author's Note: In 1838, most of the Lodges in South Carolina were in the city of Charleston. The Craft had only recently began moving in force to the outlying areas of the State. Therefore, the Charleston fire of 1838 was a significant blow to the finances and morale of Freemasonry in the Palmetto State. Moral of the story: There have been some very bad days in Freemasonry, but today ain't one of them.